Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 24, 2009

The Dreamer Examines His Pillow

Shakespeare & Company, Lenox, MA
through September 6, 2009
by Shera Cohen

Many audience members, especially newcomers, to Shakespeare & Company do not realize two important factors. First, approximately half of the plays presented in a given season are not written by the Bard. Second, many plays (Shakespearean or otherwise) are mounted at the new Bernstein Theatre. Shakes & Co. is a campus of happenings nearly round-the-clock. In addition to Founders Stage (mainstage) and Bernstein, there are at least three other venues.

Back to the “otherwise plays” at Bernstein. “The Dreamer Examines His Pillow,” by playwright John Patrick Shanley (“Doubt”), is very much contemporary in its very explosive power of words, relationships, humor, and angst. Response to the reading of “Dreamer” at last year’s Studio Festival of Plays offered the Shakes & Co. staff a preview of what audiences wanted to see. The full house on a Wednesday night (not your typical “theatre” night) instantly rose to a standing ovation at the play’s conclusion.

Donna and Tommy broke up. Tommy takes up with Donna’s young sister. Donna goes to dad for advice. Dad could care less. This is the four sentence synopsis of “Dreamer.” Doesn’t sound like much of a play let alone one of intensity. Add some twists. Donna still loves Tommy, yet is confused and upset. Tommy still loves Donna, yet doesn’t have a clue where his life is headed. Dad has the experience and wisdom to help the situation of both young people, yet is far from overjoyed to do so. Each is scared to help him/herself as well as each other. Herein, is the real play about father/daughter and male/female relationships, love and sex, art and soul shown with intensity and laughter.

The language is beautifully poetic, especially in the soliloquies. Director Tod Randolph moves her cast of three seamlessly and purposefully for the most part. Actors John Douglas Thompson, and newcomers Miriam Hyman and Bowman Wright share equal time onstage. They are dynamic in their various duet conflicts.

“Dreamer” is a play for mature audiences.